"My favorite burger wine is Cru Beaujolais. I think reds with a little earth and generous fruit make great burger wines."—Adam Chumas, Tom Douglas Restaurants (Seattle)
Wine = Condiment
"With burgers, you should be adventurous and think of wine as a condiment. For example, if you like fresh cracked pepper on your burger, go for a nice Zinfandel or Rhone red. My favorite is the Louis Barroul Cote Rotie with a Swiss and mushroom-topped burger. The combination is so addictive—the wine's hints of black pepper, sweet violets, and black olive bring out the best in the beef and the grit in the wine is a perfect match for the mushrooms. Yum! If you are a ketchup lover, go with a ripe California Cabernet that will add some sweet lush and plush fruit to that burger. At Burger and Barrel, we are all fans of Boyanci's Inspire as the velvety texture is as creamy as American cheese and the bold ripe berry aromatics sweeten that patty right up. If you are a white wine drinker, try a creamy chardonnay that has great structure. The richness in the wine will bring out the creaminess of your burger. I personally love the Lioco from the Sonoma Coast—it's a really balanced example of a California Chardonnay."—Natalie Tapken, Burger and Barrel (NYC)
Think About Toppings...and Consider Sake!
"A hamburger is a great example of a food that people muck up with big, brawny wines. The idea is that beef is a rich, bold flavor, so it can stand up to big, bold wines. Thing is, I don't see beef as being a particularly bold flavor. In fact, the thing I love most in a good burger is that subtle grassiness and vague truffle-y character. These characteristics are best brought out with brighter, earthier reds or even some whites (like top-end Sauvignon Blanc...Crazy, I know).
With any burger (as with any dish), the real question is what are you doing with it? Are there any special toppings involved? What kind of cheese are you putting on top? If you're going standard cheddar, I would steer you more toward a nice Bourgogne rouge, or one of the delicious Crozes Hermitage bottlings from Domaine Combier, the Minervois from Chateau Massiac, or one of the great Mencias from Guimaro. With a goat cheese-topped rare burger, I would suggest some Dagueneau Blanc Fumé de Pouilly, or Silex Noir. Also, the Nishida brewery in Japan makes a sake called Denshu. Denshu is made for meat. It is genius. Drinking Denshu with meat will make you a better person."—Collin Casey, Namu Gaji (San Francisco)
"Zinfandel. Maybe it’s a hangover from the late 90s where all I was eating was burgers (at 2 a.m.) and all I was drinking was fat Zinfandels—but you need bold fruit flavors to hang with that seared meat, pungent onioin, sour pickle and sweet ketchup. When you get a little fancier with the burger (like lamb) and a bit cleverer with the cheese (feta perhaps), the pairings can get a lot more dynamic. Portuguese wines seem to have an affinity for that sort of set-up."—Chris Horn, Purple Café (Washington)
Earth + Fruit
"Good burger wine should be fun and hearty. For me, the wine is nearly always a youthful red and should convey earth as well as fruit. From well-made Piemontese Barbera to classic crianza Rioja, there are a lot of winners to accompany a traditional cheeseburger."—Eamon Rockey, Aska (New York)
Butter-Basted? Pair with Chardonnay!
"These days burgers beg you to take them more seriously. The richness of the burger not only comes from the blend of meat used but also from the preparation. Many restaurants cook their burgers like their steaks, which means butter is going to provide a finishing touch to the meat. Here would be your opportunity to break out an opulent and rich Russian River Valley Chardonnay! Or stick with a red that has weight and chewier tannins to help cut the richness (this works great for cheeseburgers as well). A bright and herbaceous Cabernet Franc from Chinon (look for the wines of Bernard and Matthieu Baudry) or an old school-style Tempranillo from Rioja (like R. López de Heredia) will be a homerun with everything from the basic burger to the most gourmet!"—Ehren Ashkenazi, The Modern (NYC)
[Photo: Ellen Silverman]
Lighten Things Up With Bubbles
"Burgers can be heavy…I recommend pairing with a lovely glass of Champagne. A dry rosé Champagne would be a delightful choice with any burger. I particularly love Vilmart Cuvée Rubis NV. "—Amy Goldberger, Fifth Floor (San Francisco)
Depends on the Toppings
"Your classic burger will always work well with plush, juicy, easy going reds, such as Dolcetto from Italy, Cru Beaujolais from France and restrained Syrah from California. If toppings are on the lighter side, you can go with a white or rosé—try a Pinot Noir based rosé like you will see in Sancerre. But if toppings are rich and savory (pungent cheeses, mushrooms, grilled onions) stick to richer and spicier reds, like Zinfandel and Merlot from California or Malbec from Cahors, France."—Caleb Ganzer, db Bistro Moderne (NYC)
"With burgers I like Cali Cab. This one of those 'milk and cookies' pairings. They are really good together, so why mess with it?"—Josiah Baldivino, Michael Mina (San Francisco)
Ripe and Juicy
"A good burger wine is ripe, very flavorful and something to not take too seriously! I love a simple Dolcetto or Lambrusco from Italy and Zinfandel is a classic pairing, it is soft and juicy and has enough ripeness that it won't be overpowered by the flavors of the burger."—Joe Campanale, L'Apicio, L'Artusi, Anfora (NYC)